■ Yoo Dongjo's "Water & Dream" ■
The proposition put forward by YOO Dongjo’s works is ‘Hoehyangbanjo (回向返照)’, i.e. “life flashes before your eyes before death.” in the way of extinction. The content of his works penetrates deep into our minds, prompting the processes of deconstruction and reconstruction. They also contain Site-specific meanings, which are only revealed through an understanding of the context, and thus require the viewers to change their attitudes and viewpoints during analysis. In an era when instantaneous and immediate reactions are valued, he has presented artworks that are difficult to grasp as a means to slow down the reaction process. Because the intended message behind the work isn’t revealed straight away, it becomes that much more powerful. The format of his work grants us the time necessary for more careful observation and examination of the details and induces us to engage in introspection and interact with the world of art.
YOO Dongjo’s works featured at the exhibition demonstrate his attitude toward the rapidly changing social phenomena observed today, and the satirical piece, <The Man Standing with Ice in His Hands>, presents a sharp criticism regarding this trend. This particular piece touches upon the International Convention on Climate Change’s (UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) proposal for global environmental protection that foundered. The artist’s critical view of the environmental protection policies, which are declared by the state and individuals but are typically not observed due to the conflicts in the interest of the state and individuals. The nude man holding the ice shows how humans cannot prevent the melting of ice caused by the changes in temperature. Also, the ice covering his public area is too cold and heavy to hold yet it cannot be let go of. Eventually, the ice disappears and his pubic area is revealed; the effort to cover it has been in vain. YOO Dongjo’s previous works conveyed indirect messages, while this sends a direct message regarding the urgent issue requiring us to initiate a rapid response.
In his other work called the <Water of Daeheung-dong Residents>, a reflective plane was created using dishes from restaurants in Daeheung-dong(downtown) and images were projected on to the surface using a beam projector. From the perspective that the dishes symbolize our bodies and the water the social phenomena, it can be said that this artwork reveals the true nature of man and social phenomena. The air flow caused by a hand-held fan causes the image to sway on the reflective surface, resulting in a chaotic image. Once the chaos subsides, there is footage of a man trying to recollect the past. Afterwards, the silence is broken with the sound of water coming from the abyss. During the chaotic moment, there is an affirmation of the senses, and the footage of self-projection indicates a Site-specific space. This implicates that what we can discover in the history, culture and present aspects of a particular region, which in this case is Daeheung-dong, will differ depending on what we seek, but it also gives an insight into the attitude and relationship formed by the residents with the center of culture and arts.
In <Water Contains the Centuries of Our Mistakes>, <A R T>, and <W A T E R>, the essence of the artworks are shown as a reflection in water. Water symbolizes the boundary between reality and idealism, this life and nirvana, and this world and another world; however, the water surface is the point at which different worlds intersect and is a mutual, reflective interface. Clear self-awareness is reflected on the water surface, and the calmer it is, the stronger and clearer our self-projection becomes. Thus, the inverse symbols and the symbols reflected on water remind us of narcissism. Today, there seems to be no self-reflection, while self-projection and self-affirmation are prevalent. The artist blew a drift of wish into this pool of narcissism, causing the formation of time and space for Hoehyangbanjo (回向返照). It seems that the artist induced the viewers to engage in cognitive thinking, self-reflection and new understanding to reflect on their self-recognition by making the interface waver continually.
From the properties of water and ink, serving as the main media of his artworks, I saw a resemblance to philosopher Lao Tzu’s statements: “Highest good is like water (上善若水)” and the “the Mystery of Mysteries (玄之又玄)”, the ultimate metaphysical state of the Absolute. Water lowers itself to be in harmony with other entities and is used universally, while ink may not be colorful but it has depth and intensity. The artist’s proposition that “There is no water where there is water, and there is water where there is no water”, is a topic worth discussing. The act of holding water in certain lakes of various countries and the inverse symbols engraved in the native languages on the stones symbolic of our current society. The proposition is that once the water he engraved is revealed, it means that the water has disappeared; this urges us to recall our past mistakes and reconsider the importance of water. From the perspective of art, upon disappearance of art, the essence of art will reveal itself and people will appreciate its true significance. In philosopher Lao Tzu’s ‘Dodeokgyeong (Ch.15)’, it reads, “Chaos is similar to murky water. Who can be so serene to make muddy water settle and become clear? (混兮, 其若濁, 孰能濁以靜之徐淸)” The quality of water changes depending on how it is used and managed; as such, art will change depending on those who create it and use it. Art does not signify power and it is not for decorative purposes. It is a form of self-projection and self-reflection and the sound echoing back from art is the plea to save mankind from narcissism.